Brief: Flat funding of biomedical research costs lives, slows progress, hurts economy, and diminishes America’s leadership

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flatfundingA decade-long trend of diminished investment in medical research, exacerbated by budget-standoff driven “sequester” cuts are showing immediate and long term impacts: in stymieing promising studies, and in thwarting the development of the next generation of scientists, according to a brief from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research and TAG, Treatment Action Group.

The brief takes apart consequences of stagnant funding of biomedical research that, it says, “ripple out,” not only undermining public health, but hurting the American economy and America’s role as a global science leader.

The brief shows that U.S. investment in the National Institutes of Health has remained flat for the past decade, resulting in a 22 percent decline in purchasing power when adjusted for inflation. With less purchasing power, fewer research proposals are being funded — the number of NIH approved research proposals falling by nearly half in the last 13 years, and in the last 10 years, according to the brief, “the odds that a deserving research application will be approved have fallen by more than half.”

The federal budget sequester, which went into effect on March 1st, cut an additional ten percent from existing NIH grants, resulting in an inability to fund 700 research projects that had already been evaluated as worthy of support.

With the life sciences field responsible for more than seven million jobs in the United States, reduced funding in biomedical research also hurts the economy and costs jobs, according to the brief, which says life sciences jobs add $69 billion annually to gross domestic product, and every dollar invested in the NIH results in $2.21 in local economic growth. With projects that feed the economy going unfunded, and scientists losing jobs, sequestration cuts to biomedical research have been projected to reduce gross domestic product by $200 billion over the next several years, the brief says.

As the American share of global biomedical research spending declines, the U.S. is less likely to be home for future biomedical research breakthroughs, prompting major companies to relocate to other countries that prioritize research investments, like China or India: “Unless America reinvests in biomedical research, China could soon overtake the U.S. as the global leader in the development of breakthrough medical discoveries.”

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